out of Five
Running time: 80
Well acted but ultimately disappointing British drama that gets badly derailed in the third act and never quite recovers thanks to poor direction and an overly melodramatic script.
What's it all about?
Directed by Brian Percival, A Boy Called Dad is set in The Wirral and stars newcomer Kyle Ward as 14-year-old Robbie, who becomes a reluctant father when he loses his virginity to classmate Leanne (Sacha Parkinson) in the opening scene. A chance encounter with his own estranged father, Joe (Ian Hart), leads to some gradual bonding but Robbie is furious when he discovers Joe had lied about living in Ireland and has in fact been living in Liverpool since walking out on him and his mother (Louise Delamere) when Robbie was just four years old.
When Robbie sees Leanne's thuggish boyfriend Stevie (Lee Turnbull) shouting at his baby son, he makes a snap decision that results in Stevie getting shot in the stomach and Robbie going on the run with his baby in tow.
Kyle Ward delivers an impressively naturalistic performance as Robbie – he doesn't have all that much dialogue and rarely smiles, yet his eyes speak volumes about the heavy emotional burden he's carrying around. Ian Hart is equally good as his feckless father, covering up his own emotional burdens with a steady stream of amusing one-liners (“On a clear day you can see Val Doonican”) and witty comebacks (“Do you want to be buried or cremated?” “Surprise me...”).
Unfortunately, the film goes badly off the rails in the third act, when Robbie meets a Welsh farm girl (Charlene McKenna as Nia) who turns out to have traumatic problems of her own. The film then spirals into out-and-out melodrama, seemingly abandoning the promise of the first half of the film – it's almost as if Percival and screenwriter Julie Rutterford didn't have enough confidence that their initial story was strong enough, whereas the reality is that once Ian Hart's character disappears, the film is left floundering as a result.
In short, A Boy Called Dad is something of a disappointment, despite a promising set-up and strong performances from Ian Hart and Kyle Ward.